Prose Header

Women in Autumn

by Tala Bar

Table of Contents
Chapter 1, part 1; part 2
appears in this issue.
Chapter 2: Friday

Tirza closed the shop at noon and went home, still thinking of her talk with Lorry before he left for the office in the morning. He took his travel bag with him and she asked him about his plans.

“I need to go to the office, and then I’ll take the bus for Eilat. I’m leaving you the car, so you have no difficulty getting to Ein Atid.”

“When shall I hear from you?”

“I’ll call you at two o’clock, I suppose I’ll be there by then. You shouldn’t worry.”

“Why is the meeting in Eilat?” she asked. Something was on her mind, which she was unable to determine.

“The man I have business with lives there, and I couldn’t see him in town,” he explained, impatiently. Good thing she knew very little about his business, otherwise she would know he had nothing to do in Eilat, that the factory had its own representative there, and that he was going for a tryst with one of the most important women at the plant. How could he ever explain that to her?

In fact, he was supposed to join Anat in her car. Their relations were known at the office, but Tirza’s connections with the office were slight. Mostly she preferred not to go with him to the seasonal parties and, in general, she was not interested in meeting his colleagues. None of them thought it right, at least for the time being, to act as her informer.

Tirza, who understood all the animals under her charge, had great difficulty in understanding human beings and was unable to understand her husband at all. She loved him with a certain sense of dependence in a way she had never felt toward anyone before, and she could not visualize her life without him. Even now she was yearning for his hug.

And he felt it, holding her tight before he left, not as if he was going to meet another woman, but as if he did not want to let her go, to leave him to his own wild behavior. Would Tirza leave him if she heard about his relationship with the other woman? He did not want to think about it.

He kissed her hard, “Take care of yourself, don’t have an accident. When I return, I’ll go directly to the office, but I’ll call to tell you.”

She caressed his face and let him go. The feeling of his skin was still on her hand now, when she entered the empty flat. She paused, watched through the window the line of houses leading to the sea. She could not see the sea, which was a number of kilometers away from where they lived; she could only imagine the rising waves, in accord with her agitated heart. A long time she stood like that, expecting, until she finally turned to pack.

At two o’clock the call came, the talk went on previously known lines, without any excitement.

“You arrived all right, no failures?”

“No problems.”

“And the room at the hotel is all right?”

“I’m calling from the lobby, just arrived, but I suppose it’s all right. I’m seeing the customer in the evening. In the mean time I’m going to settle down, and go for a walk in town. You can call me on Shabat at noon, if you want.” Then, after a short pause, “Will you be all right at your mother’s?”

“Yes, no problems, don’t worry.”

A short silence.

“Then bye, Honey.”

“Bye, Lili...” her nickname for him, which had been put aside lately. The phone in Eilat was put down gently before she had put it down on her side.

For a long time Tirza gazed in the air, as if trying to imagine the sight of Lorry at the hotel in Eilat. They had stayed there once, on one of the vacations they used to take occasionally, at the beginning of their marriage. Lately, since he had become a manager of the marketing department, he had become too busy for vacations.

She stood there, meditating on nothing, until at last she recovered and went to have a shower. She took her time as she surrendered to the flow of water on her body; she took her time in drying, making up her face, putting on some of her best clothes, packing her bag, not thinking, not expecting anything in particular when spending time with her family

* * *

Having taken the children to school in the morning, explaining to them that Grandmother Ariela would take them home with her at noon, Anat returned home to pack. Lorry appeared and she let him drive. As many years a traveling agent, he was used to cars and roads, and their drive passed in reasonable comfort, without any problems.

They arrived in Eilat at noon, had a snack and went up to their room to rest. At two o’clock, Lorry took up the phone, stretched on the bed and dialed Tirza’s number, while gazing at Anat who had been undressing.

There was something very arousing in the nonchalant way she had removed layer after layer of the clothes she had worn to the office. She first removed the silver gray jacket, put it in the closet and smoothed it with her hand. Then she sat on the bed, removed her shoes, rolled down her stockings, smoothed her long legs and rubbed her feet. She then rose and stepped out of the silver gray skirt, hanging it also while looking at her image in the mirror over the dressing table. Slowly she opened the buttons of her beige blouse, one by one, stayed for a moment like that, with her blouse open.

At that moment Lorry put down the phone, rose and came up to her, inserted his hands under her blouse, pulled her tight to him and bent to kiss her lips. She smiled up at him, for a moment surrendering, then she pushed him away,

“I don’t want the blouse to crease,” she murmured.

He backed away unwillingly, did not take away his eyes from her as she removed her blouse and hung it in the closet, smoothing it as well as if to remove creases it did not have. She was left standing barefoot in the short, silky underskirt, which barely covered her firm behind.

“You drive me mad,” he murmured, approaching her again. When she lifted the underskirt above her head, he was already between her legs, inhaling her scent, his hand searching on her back to open her bra. Within minutes they were stretched on the bed, making furious love.

“I love you, I love you,” he did not stop murmuring, crying out in his climax, whispering into her breasts afterward.

“Yes, yes,” she answered his excitement, contracting with multiple orgasms; then, at last, she hugged his head to her lap, caressing his wet hair with her eyes shut.

“I love you, Anat,” he repeated again and again, stopping only when they got dressed to go down to the Friday night meal at the hotel.

“Of course, Lorry, you love me now, no doubt,” she said at last with an embarrassed laugh. Sex with him was fantastic, better than with any of the other men she had known. But love? Oh please! She knew him too well! Perhaps she should start avoiding him when they got back, she thought, perhaps they should not meet alone for some time...

She did not ponder on it, though, avoiding the idea as much as she thought of avoiding Lorry. They spent the evening in bed, with some breaks for rest and watching television; then they resumed their lovemaking. It was the first time they had ever spent together the whole night, and they did not go to sleep until the early hours of the morning.

* * *

Maya looked at the clock on the wall in the interior decoration office where she worked. The minute hand came close to twelve, and she said, “I’m leaving, Pnina, all right? It’s almost two and I must go get Matan at kindergarten.” In the last three years she said this sentence almost every Friday afternoon.

“Don’t worry, Maya, I’m closing soon anyway,” Pnina answered her with the same sentence. But she knew Maya was worried, so she did not mind repeating the words. Maya knew she owed Pnina her part in the rehabilitation of her life, and was happy to hear the same sentence again and again.

Pnina and Shura, mainly Shura, of course. Maya would never forget that awful day at the police station, when she was arrested for murder. Murder! The humiliated, tortured girl, who could never stand against oppression, the suffering she had gone through, suddenly raised her hand and eliminated the man, one of many men, who was the cause of her suffering.

She would never forget the noise and shouts, the mist she was wrapped in, as she did not even hear the sound of shooting, the commotion it raised... And from within that mist the low, hoarse, decisive voice, “I’ll look after her, I’ll bring her to court...” Then the warm, soft hug, like nothing she had ever experienced before; and the new shelter, a refuge she had never had in her life.

Only after Shura had brought Maya to her apartment, took her under the shower, washed her as if she was a little girl, shampooed her hair and rinsed her body, dried her and dressed her with a nightdress scented clean, everything with good, soft hands; then putting her in a warm, clean bed, covering her with a blanket and signing a light kiss on her brow... Maya then sunk deep in sleep from which she woke into a brand new world...

Shura saw to everything, as she had promised. She saw that the defense lawyer would win in a plea of “self defense,” and Maya did not spend one day in jail. Shura saw that Maya see a psychiatrist, going through an intense course of treatment to help her leave her troubles behind, inserting into her some kind of self-assurance. And at last, having discovered Maya’s artistic talent, she got her a job in an internal decoration office, with Pnina, who treated her with the gentleness and understanding she needed.

In the meantime, Maya had given birth to Matan, the child who had been conceived by one of her former clients (she had no way of knowing whom) and who was the direct reason for killing the pimp, who had wanted her to abort. For some mysterious reason, Maya did not want to abort; so the man started beating her up, and finally she managed to snatch his gun and shoot him, unintentionally, as it was shown.

When Matan was born, Maya did not know how to deal with him, was unable to take care of him. Shura had done it for the first couple of years, while Maya was recovering and seeing the psychologist. Shura then adopted the boy as her son, claiming Maya was unable to take care of him. Slowly, gradually, with all that help, Maya began to get closer to the child, though some distance between them still remained, and he recognized Shura as his main mother.

Sharing Shura’s bed was also a gradual process for Maya. At first, Shura slept on the couch in the living room, leaving the bed for Maya. But the older woman gave the younger one all that love she had missed from her mother, the sense of security she had missed from her father. While the sexual part was less important, it was certainly better than what she had had first from her father and then from her clients...

For a moment her breath stopped, groaning under the memory of the heavy, hairy body, emanating a smell that choked her. She immediately stopped on her way and used the method the psychiatrist had taught her, to ignore these unwanted thoughts, to push them to the back of her mind.

Then she continued on her way to the kindergarten to fetch Matan, trying only to think of her son and the way she could get closer to him without returning to those memories. On Friday Shura worked only three hours in the morning, occupying herself in cleaning the flat before the Shabat. There was no point in her taking the child, as she did when Maya was unable to do it.

The kindergarten was hidden in a side alley, close to the new commercial center, among some old trees and young saplings. As usual, Maya stood for a while watching the kids playing in the yard, hiding her being there. She knew she did not have that motherly feeling which is supposed to be in every woman. She watched the children with the same curiosity she did the animals in the cages at the ‘Friends’ pet shop.

She saw Matan and tried to find in herself that instinctive closeness which she was supposed to have, but was unable to feel. The affection stirred in her was a result of knowing him, of sharing their life where Shura was the mother that both of them missed.

The boy saw her and came up to the fence with a shy hesitation, “Maya... Mother? Have you come to take me home?”

She came into the yard, up to him, bent and hugged him. It was a pleasant action for her so she was ready to do it, having learned how. Suddenly she planted a kiss on his cheek, her eyes tearing, “Come, take your things and let’s go home.”

* * *

At three o’clock Tirza left the flat, entered her car and started on her way out of town. The direct distance to the village of Ein Atid was short enough, but at this time of Friday afternoon the roads out of town were crowded; her drive took almost an hour, and she arrived there at four.

The sun was halfway down, and the heat of the day began to cool down. She parked the car at her family’s house, took out her bag and locked the car, and stood for a moment to look at the house.

It was the place where she was born and grew up. Her brother Hagai inherited it when their father died; her mother lived in it as a tenant. Hagai had enlarged it in height and width, and it looked now more like a villa than the little, crowded place where Tirza and her brother and two sisters had lived.

The garden looked well cared for, she assumed by her sister-in-law Ofra; her mother, Ruth, had never shown any interest in flowers. Ruth had been a confirmed farmer, and had no mind for beauty. Today, however, she had lost most of her sight and hearing, as well as her physical strength, living in a forced idleness.

At last, Tirza entered the house. Ruth was sitting with two of her cronies, having tea; but they rose and left as soon as they said hello to Tirza, leaving the mother and daughter on their own. Tirza, having kissed her mother on her cheek, was hungry enough to cram some cake and tea into her mouth. Then she looked at Ruth with some concern.

At close to eighty, Ruth looked somewhat neglected, having sunk into a rather too desperate existence to worry about such trivialities. Tirza knew that Ofra looked properly after her mother-in-law, as much as Ofra’s time allowed her, but without the help of the old woman herself. Even the helping woman coming three times a week to wash and clean her did not seem enough.

“How’re things on the farm?” Tirza asked, idly, only because she knew that used to be the only thing that had interested her mother.

Ruth shrugged. She knew Tirza was not really interested in the farm, having some quaint ideas of animal freedom and nature preservation. But she liked her youngest daughter more than any other of her four children, and was grateful for her coming to see her.

“So, how are you, Mother?” Tirza asked, having turned her eyes away as Ruth’s look offended her sensitivity.

“It could be better,” the old woman said.

“What about the operation for your eyes? Have you thought of it?”

“At my age, it’s pointless. I’ll never go back to work, anyway, and Ofra is a wonderful manager and worker.”

“But don’t you want to be able to do things for yourself? And what about television, or seeing your grandchildren?”

Ruth shrugged again. She was lost to life and continued her existence without enthusiasm or hope for something better.

Ofra appeared, with her children. “Auntie Tirza!” Ronit, eight years old and Tal, four, fell on her with their love and happiness. She hugged them warmly, kissing their cheeks.

“How are you, Tirza?” Ofra asked with interest. She liked her sister-in-law, even though she did not always understand her. “And Lorry, is he again away on business?”

“I don’t care, as long as I can come to see you. You know he’s not keen on sitting the whole Shabat at the village.”

Not having seen Ofra for two months, Tirza was very aware of her advanced pregnancy. She knew Ofra had planned to have a child every four years, and she seemed to accomplish her plan perfectly

Ofra was a very precise sort of person, a hard-working, healthy and practical woman, the perfect wife for a working farmer. Her appearance was as solid as her ideas, her hair cut short and her eyes laughing.

Ofra sent her children to play and took Tirza to her room upstairs. Ruth’s help was due, to prepare her for the Shabat, so there was no point in worrying about her. It was Tirza’s old room from her youth, kept clean and in good order.

Tirza got her clothes and other things out of her bag, hung the dress in the closet, then stretched on the bed. It was too late now for going out to roam in the village, as she had always loved to do. Never mind, she’d do it on Shabat.

To be continued...

Copyright © 2007 by Tala Bar

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